Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Brasa – St. Paul, MN

I have wanted to go to Brasa since moving to the Twin Cities a few years back. I’ve looked at the menu a number of times online and just have never found a time to go there. So when D.Rough’s sister, Hermana, and brother-in-law (BIL) were in town from Chicago, we decided to go there. They are much healthier eaters than I am and we thought they’d be able to find some non-disgusting food there pretty easily. For those that don’t know, Brasa is kind of a rotisserie place that serves various meats with sides and some sandwiches. It’s set up like a giant open air restaurant with huge garage doors that they keep open as much as possible.

The menu has a lot of options on it. You can get sandwiches, or meat plates with some sides, or you can order meat by the weight and sides individually. D.Rough and I were going to buy meat by the pound and then get a bunch of sides and we talked Hermana and BIL into doing the same. There are a lot of options to choose from and we needed a really long time to finally decide on what it was we were going with.

D.Rough and I decided on a half-pound of Braised Beef (with a sweet-spicy glaze), some cornbread, Rustic Style Cheese Grits, Red Beans and Rice, and Crispy Yucca with Mojo sauce. I also decided at the very last minute to order a bowl of the Biscuit in Chicken Soup – special of the day. And yes, for a moment, I thought it was some miracle and I had seen Chicken In-A-Biskit on a restaurant menu somewhere, but alas, it was not cracker infused. Hermana and BIL got a half pound of Pulled Chicken (in a creamy gravy), some cornbread, Collards with Smoked Turkey (kind of a long shot and living on the edge, apparently), Black Beans and Rice, and Homemade Chips and Guacamole. Yes, it sounds like a lot of food, but that’s because it IS!!!! D.Rough got a homemade guava-lime soda and I got a ginger-pineapple soda.

The food really didn’t take that long to come out to us, which we were thankful for, since we were all pretty hungry (if you couldn’t tell by the amount of food we ordered). Our table was completely covered with dishes when it all came out. That’s how I like to eat a meal. I don’t even know if I can go through everything without this turning into a multi-chapter tome. I’ll hit the highlights.

The biscuit in Chicken soup was awesome. Kind of a creamy chicken soup with a couple of tiny biscuits floating around in it. Really good flavor with the chicken and also really fresh veggies throughout. This was a definite win and a great way to start out the meal. The Braised Beef was really really good. It wasn’t spicy at all, but the flavor of the sauce it was in was delicious. Very tender pieces of meat and enough to make sure we were full. This only makes me curious if the other meats are equally awesome, or if we just ordered the best thing they had.

The Cheese Grits were kind of meh, in both of our opinions. Not bad, just boring. The red beans and rice were good, but not stellar. I mean, it’s hard to do something flashy with red/black beans and rice (unless you are Popeyes). The fried yucca was really good. I’m still not even sure what yucca is exactly (although, I’m sure RPM from Arizona is going to write me a nasty e-mail explaining it), but it’s good stuff, especially with the mojo sauce. Again, not even sure what’s in it, but it’s got some zing to it. Warning, the yucca comes on a plate and some sort of malt vinegar has been splashed on it, so at least be ready for it. It wasn’t bad though, even though I’m not usually a fan – it didn’t take away from the flavor of the yucca or mojo.

I warned D.Rough’s sister and BIL that I would only take a photo of their food if I could eat most of it – yes, I was kidding… or maybe wishful thinking or using the power of suggestion… I didn’t eat much off of their plate, but the collard greens with turkey were really good. They were really spicy, but also really good. They’re like a lot of traditional southern greens, but they were cooked with pieces of turkey so the flavor soaks into the greens. Then none of us are sure why the juice at the bottom was so spicy, but it definitely had some zip to it. They were really good. The rest of the food items got good comments from the actual eaters of that food, but I didn’t want to interview them about everything – we were having a blast, so I didn’t want to nerd out on them too much.

After the meal, certain people decided they wanted dessert. I even suggested heading to Café Latte for a finishing piece of cheesecake, but it was much easier to just finish up the meal in style at Brasa. The ladies got a Chocolate Bourbon Tart to split and BIL got a White Birthday Cupcake with vanilla buttercream frosting – he stated up front that he would not be eating a tart (hilarious!)(and yes, he was joking). The cupcake seemed a little plain in my eyes, but I think the frosting helped it out. The report from BIL was that the cake itself was a little dry, but the frosting was top notch. The tart went over much better than anticipated. It was sort of short and cheesecake-like, or maybe flourless cake-like. So it was a low-rider on a oatmeal-raisin crust. Then it was drizzled with caramel sauce to make it all fancified. I had a bite of it and it was really quite good, if you’re a dessert person. I could pass on it, but I think both the ladies liked it a lot.

I will definitely eat here again. We got good and full here and it wasn’t nearly as expensive as you’d think, given the amount of food we ordered. The service was good, and the atmosphere is fun (even when they shut the garage doors because it got too cold). I’m bummed I didn’t get to see the rotisseries in action, but maybe next time, I’ll ask to see them. I also refrained from making dirty jokes while discussing the rotisseries which, for those that know me, know how difficult that must have been. Hey, people, I can class up when I need to.

Top 5 things about Brasa
1. Braised Beef
2. Collard green with Turkey
3. Biscuit in Chicken Soup
4. Homemade sodas
5. Yucca with Mojo Sauce

Bottom 5 things
1. It has a tiny and dangerous parking lot. We saw a couple people almost get taken out – be CAREFUL.
2. Cheese Grits
3. Red/Black Beans
4. It got super cold while we were sitting outside – totally NOT the fault of Brasa
5. Dry-ish birthday cupcake (also no candle on the cupcake – how is it a birthday without a candle!?!?)


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